• the need to protect the confidentiality of responses of data providers,both individuals and organizations, and

• the need for data series that are independent—not subject to control by policy makers or regulatory or enforcement agencies and readily available on an equal basis to all users.

The principles and practices for a federal statistical agency that are reviewed in this report pertain to individual agencies as separate organizational entities in the context of a decentralized system for providing federal statistics. Historically, the response of the U.S. government to needs for information to support new federal responsibilities in such areas as agriculture, education, labor, health, science, energy, criminal justice, and transportation has been to create a separate statistical unit in the relevant cabinet department or independent agency. As a consequence, the United States now has one of the most decentralized statistical systems of any modern nation. This report does not comment on the advantages or disadvantages of the U.S. system nor compare it with other models for organizing government statistics. It discusses the critical importance of ensuring that federal statistical agencies coordinate and collaborate with each other and with other agencies on a range of activities, describes the coordinating role of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and reviews some mechanisms for interagency collaboration.

PRINCIPLES FOR A FEDERAL STATISTICAL AGENCY

Principle 1: Relevance to Policy Issues

A federal statistical agency must be in a position to provide objective, accurate, and timely information that is relevant to issues of public policy.

A statistical agency must be knowledgeable about the issues and requirements of public policy and federal programs and able to provide information that is relevant to policy and program needs. In establishing priorities for statistical programs for this purpose, a statistical agency must work closely with the users of such information in the executive branch, Congress, and elsewhere.

Statistical agencies must also provide objective, accurate, and timely information on the subject area(s) in their purview that is useful to a broad



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